Some residents express concerns about I-395 Express Lanes extension project

Interstate 395 in Virginia is usually congested even outside of rush hour, but it will get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is expanding toll lanes on the highway and that has some drivers upset.

This is the second phase of High Occupancy Toll (HOT) or Express Lanes on I-395. Right now, they stop just north of Edsall Road not too far from Landmark Mall. Now, VDOT is starting the next step - an 8-mile stretch ending near the Pentagon.

VDOT said it is trying relieve that congestion by adding a toll lane and turning the existing HOV lanes into tolls. It has already been done south on Interstate 95 extending into Stafford County and on the Beltway.

On Monday night, one of the first informational meetings for the public to hear all about the plans and the timeframe for the project was held.

However, VDOT still has a few hurdles to get through before they start construction.

"We're doing a study that will include noise impacts of the project, air quality and a number of other environmental concerns," said Susan Shaw of VDOT. "We'll look at those impacts, present them to the public in the fall."

Right now, you can drive on the current HOV lanes during off peak times without paying anything. That would go away making it a toll road all the time and that doesn't sit well with some people who feel the current HOV rules should stay in place.

"You can drive on the HOV lanes after 10 [a.m.] until 3 p.m," said Springfield resident Don Ellison. "Now that's going to be stolen from us. We already paid for those HOV lanes."

VDOT still has to work out the cost and finish the study. Construction is set to start next spring and expected to finish by the summer of 2019.

Another public meeting is scheduled to be held Wednesday at Francis Hammond Middle School in Alexandria.